In my residence hall hangs a poster showcasing the goals of students who were asked to “go green.” Many of these initiatives include recycling, turning off the lights, unplugging cords and using “science” to solve all of our environmental problems.
In honor of Earth Day, which was nearly a week ago, these goals seemed innocent and sincere enough. Unfortunately, for many of the students who signed for these goals as their means of honoring the earth on Earth Day, these same many would be guilty of only doing these things on only this day.
That’s not to say that every student recycled for one day and then threw their papers to the wind the next. That’s also not to say that every person from the age of 18 to 22 is completely apathetic to the environment. What I’m meaning to convey is that had there been no RHA event asking students to think about measures to go green (in order to get a cookie or piece of pizza), I almost wonder if they would have thought about their measures at all. Did half the students signing this poster even know when Earth Day was?
Since 1970, Earth Day has been a celebration recognized almost universally. Unlike Christmas or President’s Day, however, we don’t have classes excused or exchange presents. Given this and given that we don’t really get anything out of Earth Day, many may be inclined to respond to the idea of this day with a shrug of the shoulders. Whatever, right?
Still, while some brush the day off and go about their regular business, doing their regular things, some are moved to make these goals and change something about their routine for at least a short moment. Some are moved to sign these posters. While this is a good push for sustainability, for at least a day, the issue with this exists in precisely why it is beneficial. These goals only last for a day — and at what cost?
If you wouldn’t show your mother gratitude only on Mother’s Day or show your significant other that you care only on Valentine’s Day, you shouldn’t care about the earth only on Earth Day.
We live on the earth and breathe in its air from the second we are born to the second that we die. All things on the earth sustain our very existence and the way of life as we know it. To comprehend an existence without the earth, in some strange, symbolic and metaphysical way, is actually too deep and too overdramatic to make a point for sustainability. After all, it doesn’t take something special to realize that having no earth would equate to having no us.
Nonetheless, this simple notion doesn’t often resonate with us explicitly. In the way that we use and misuse our resources, be that on a global level, a national level or a very personal one, caring about our earth isn’t often at the forefront of everything we do.
Now I don’t mean to argue that we drop everything and stop our lives in order to ponder the way we treat this planet on which we live. While it is important to be good stewards to the very thing that provides us life, the reality is that there are other works to be done with deadlines to be met, phone calls to be made and a dinner to get home to. Although the earth won’t end if a paper is thrown into the trash by accident or if a light is left on for 30 minutes too long, we should not only be “going green” on Earth Day. We should sign the poster in hopes to go green every day.
Year after year, the world continues to change at a rapid pace with dramatic and dangerous changes having snowballed in recent years. It rings true that “nothing poses a bigger threat to our water, our livelihood and our quality of life than a warming climate,” with unsustainable practices and a reckless attitude to our world not only posing a risk to our own well-being, but also to that of everyone around us.
In a relatively recent letter to the State Press, in the week before Earth Day, was an opinion written on the “hoax” of climate change.
“Yes, the temperature is on the rise, but that’s natural. The earth goes through these natural ups and downs, but what is unnatural is that it has become common knowledge to believe it is our fault.”
To say that a changing climate is happening in isolation, due to scientific patterns, seems ignorant of the very human patterns we see day in and day out. Either relayed through the news of growing CO2 levels, violent storms or in what we see in our home towns, the poster hanging in the hall of my building even suggests otherwise.
Yes, the thing about our changing world is that it’s not our fault. Yes the earth goes through changes, but it is our fault when we make those changes worse. When we use more than we need, when we turn a blind eye to carbon pollution, when we willingly open the door for future generations to step into a very different, very dangerous world, then that is our fault. We need to be held accountable.
Say, for example, if you live in a city going through a drought, but the people of that city take several showers a day, water their grass obsessively or are, generally, wasteful with water, the effects of that drought will be intensified. The people of that city will be told to change their habits, because their actions are negatively affecting those around them. This is something that can be both immediately seen and felt. Despite this, when you emit harmful amounts of substance into the air we breathe, that is something you can’t see. Water is a thing because you can hold and visually comprehend. We often don’t think of air as a thing, however, since we can’t do this same thing. We’re visual creatures.
While sustainable practices go a long way and recycling bins exist for a reason, we need to particularly be aware of the makeup of our atmosphere. The more CO2 does not actually make things better and roughly 97 percent of climate scientists and institutions, including NASA, may be inclined to agree.
The poster hanging in my residence hall reflects the responses of only a handful few although there are many reasons, very close to home, why it should flaunt more.
Climate change is a very real crisis that goes beyond whether or not we unplug appliances (although that is still important to do). While I urge you to continue to think about and ponder the way we treat our earth, long after Earth Day, I also urge you to think of this issue as something we should be responding to in haste, but not out of fear. We don’t need to be scared into acting on climate. We need to treat responding to climate change as a duty.
Reach the columnist at Alexis.Gonzalez@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @0Moscwow
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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